ACL Review: Jai Malano

Meet Austin’s new “Big Mama” Thornton

Proving just how hot Jai Malano’s set was under the Tito’s Handmade Vodka tent, the singer fanned herself with a white antique fan, swaying during the bristling solo of whiskey romp “Don’t.” Sunday’s noontime set at Zilker Park marked the local’s first outdoor festival performance in the United States.

Photo by Jana Birchum

Recently, Malano’s maintained a residency on South Congress at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul. In between, she’s completed a string of dates at international festivals in France through the ATX6 music export project.

Yesterday at her tight, 45-minute ACL set, she showcased songs from 2015 debut Rocket Girl, a rhythm and blues affair boasting traces of full-throttled rockabilly and rounded out with a rugged voice. She went from a jive songstress in “Johnny Knows” and confident, quick-lipped sasser in “Learn About a Man” to a boogie-time carouser on the album’s title track.

In a bold rendition of R&B classic “Hound Dog,” the Texas native belted out the iconic lines “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog” in a throat-scratched rasp as sinewy guitar wrapped around a keyed, 12-bar blues thump. While there were points where the blaring honks of horns were missed, the quintet’s spitfire-twanged guitar and tumbleweed percussion compensated formidably.

Following in the steps of brusque and badass ladies like Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jai Malano solidified her stamp in the Austin blues canon.

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Jai Malano, ACL Fest 2016, ATX6 2016, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thorton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe

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